Food texture can be the difference between passing on a plate and loving on the first bite. To date, most studies of food texture focus on the relationship between the overall composition of a food and its mechanical properties. However, our understanding of how the microscopic structure and shape changes of foods affect the texture of foods remains underdeveloped.
Researchers from Denmark and Germany conducted a series of experiments concerning the microstructure and rheology of foods, the study of how soft solids and certain liquids deform in texture. In Physics of Fluids, by AIP Publishing, they used coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering microscopy (CARS) to relate the molecular makeup of fat in foods with the rheological and mechanical properties of the food.
The foods in question: foie gras and pÃ¢tÃ©.
âUsing soft-matter physics tools and models, we connected structural information in foods at all length scales,â said author Thomas Vilgis. “We have combined microscopy and rheology to understand the mouthfeel of foods from a gastrophysical perspective.”
Both derived from duck livers, the two dishes have a fairly similar overall structure and their different fat distribution provided a window into how fat affects texture.
âThere are other interesting aspects that can be targeted to create new products with the same characteristics as these products,â said author Mathias P. Clausen. “Can we create textures like foie gras without cruelty to animals?” Can we create a smooth, creamy texture from different sources of fat? “
To answer these questions, the group turned to CARS microscopy, which uses lasers to vibrate chemical bonds in foods at tunable frequencies and make them emit light. The technique has been used for decades in other fields but, until now, has been used relatively little in food science.
The fat from the foie gras had organized itself into an irregularly shaped, loosely bonded network of fat embedded in a protein matrix, which made its mouth harder, more brittle and more elastic than that of the pÃ¢tÃ©.
The greater number of rounder, smoother fat particles and the lack of an interconnected network were responsible for the smoother texture of the pÃ¢tÃ©.
Clausen hopes their research will further fuel interest in studying the microscopic characteristics of foods that can be altered. The group is looking to study other components of foods with advanced microscopy, such as the arrangement of proteins, and see if they can use their findings to create foods that mimic the texture of fatty liver.
Reference: Via MA, Baechle M, Stephan A, Vilgis TA, Clausen MP. Microscopic characterization of foie gras-based emulsions: Bridge between microstructure and texture in foie gras and pÃ¢tÃ©. Phys. Fluids. 2021; 33 (11): 117119. doi: 10.1063 / 5.00070998
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